Your dog loves sniffing every inch of your neighborhood and checking to see who’s outside. You might be busy or tired, but take her anyway — your body (and your community) will thank you, according to new research.

Study participants who walked their dog achieved at least 30 minutes of physical activity on more days per week than non-dog-walkers. The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, so dog walking helps people to meet that minimum. Plus, they make their neighbors feel safer.

The study, conducted by The University of Western Australia (UWA) in collaboration with the WALTHAM Centre for Pet Nutrition, included more than 1,000 dog walkers in three U.S. cities and in Perth, Australia.

“Previous studies have shown that dog walking helps individuals increase and sustain regular physical activity, therefore helping people achieve recommended levels of physical activity,“ WALTHAM spokesperson Abigail Stevenson told Lady Freethinker.

However, this is the first such study to also include dog walkers’ neighbors, and reports a heightened feeling of safety and camaraderie.

“Pets have been described as ‘social lubricants’ and as facilitators of social interactions and sense of community,” said Stevenson. “These opportunities for social interaction are particularly important for older people who may be experiencing a shrinking social network.”

The research also established that almost 60% of dog walkers reported feeling safer when walking with their dog than when walking alone. The effect was most profound on women.

So next time Fido or Daisy starts scratching at the door, get yourself off of the couch and grab that leash.

“Dogs should be exercised daily at level of time and intensity that suits the size, age and energy levels of both owner and dog,” according to Stevenson.

 

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